By Alex Lee
In the days when what is now Astana was just empty steppe, hunting skills were vital. Getting food for the dinner table and making sure your family would not starve were top priorities for men in the steppe. “Hunting always played a key role in the lives of nomads,” AbdinurNuskabai, a leading researcher at The Nazarbayev Center’s Institute of Statehood, Problems of Security and Development, told EdgeKz. “Due to the vast territories of Kazakhstan, there is quite a variety of different animals that live here. These animals were hunted for food, skin and fur, and horns,” Nuskabai continued. The most widespread types of hunting were with falcons, eagles, hawks, merlin and peregrine falcons, he continued. However, such accompaniment could be afforded only by the wealthy, so many hunters turned to hounds to round up their prey. And though the equipment has changed, the tradition of hunting in Kazakhstan continues. Modern Kazakhstan is home to more than 500 animal species, including five endangered ones. The Kazakh steppes are home to populations of wolves, foxes, lynx, bears and Caspian tiger, roe, Siberian stags and deer. They are also home to 100,000 passionate Kazakhs registered to hunt them.
Through the Generations
“I think it is in our blood. It runs in the family, all our relatives were hunters: my father, uncles and now I have been hunting for over 38 years now. And I taught my son to hunt as well,” 50-year-old Evgeny Glushakov told EdgeKz. Evgeny Glushakov and his son Sergey Glushakov both started hunting at early age. Evgeny was taken on hunting trips by his father when he was around 12 years old. And Evgeny continued the tradition by taking Sergey to hunt at around the same age. “I always asked my dad to go hunting with him when I was a kid,” said Sergey. “I remember the first time we were out there to hunt a grouse, that was my first prey and I felt really proud in front of my father.”
Today, Sergey is 27 and he and his father now hunt more dangerous game, such as bears and wolves. And like the hunters who came before them, they say that hunting is about more than just the kill. “To be a great huntsman takes a large amount of virtues, like patience, courage and honor,” said Evgeny. “Sometimes in the winter it can be freezing cold. In Eastern Kazakhstan, cold snaps are ruthless reaching to minus 40-50 Celsius. But we areout there hunting, wearing snow-white camouflages, and waiting on our prey. We are not out there to just shoot animals. It is a delicate process… setting the booby traps, being invisible to our prey, being smarter than our prey, faster and more intelligent. Sometimes they are smarter than us.”
Evgeny is a car mechanic and hunting for him is another full-time job, and a lifestyle he can’t give up. Sergey is a local fireman and shares his father’s destiny. This family duo based out of Astana also helps arrange hunting getaways for both Kazakh citizens and foreigners. The agency they work for can also handle the licensing and permits necessary for visitors to hunt. See information box for contact details.
Another long-time Kazakh hunter is Alexander Antipov, who says that he always wanted to be a hunter when he grew up.“Astana was still called Tselinograd in those days and it was completely different from now. Quite frankly, it was a swamp. When I was 16, my school friends and I would hunt ducks, said Antipov, now 60 years old.“Back in the Soviet era, every man had to learn to shoot and fight for his motherland and they had to fight back to back. Today, the hunting spirit is still alive in Kazakhstan.”
Modern Day Hunts
“Hunting used to be free and far less regulated in Soviet times. In those days, anyone who owned a rifle could go out hunting. However, since independence we’ve had to create new regulations to prevent poachers from hunting rare animals to extinction,” Alexander Lyalchenko of Astana told EdgeKz. Lyalchenko works for the Akmola regional office in Astana of the Kazohotrybolovsoyuz, or Kazakh Hunters’ and Fishermen’s Union. And in 2010, the government began enforcing the requirement for hunting and fishing licenses. The fishing licensing has since been abandoned as authorities and the Kazohotrybolovsoyuz “couldn’t handle the massive numbers of fishermen trying to obtain licenses,” said Lyalchenko.
Today, much of Kazakh hunting is divided up into territories where hunters can set up small tent camps or stay in established lodges, said Lyalchenko. And hunting licenses are still required to help stop poachers who face fines up to $3,000.Hunting endangered species outside hunting seasons can also lead to up to two years in jail. In fact, Kazakh hunters have to complete a 16-hour course and pass an exam to get their hunter’s license. Many hunters, said Antipov, don’t mind the regulations because they have always had respect for the creatures they hunt. “A good hunter should remember not to abuse their power and skills in any way. You are not out there to shoot some animals that can’t protect themselves. You have to respect the weaker species,” said Antipov.
Hunting for Visitors
With a little planning ahead, visitors to Kazakhstan can also enjoy the country’s hunting culture. To hunt in Kazakhstan, visitors must apply for a permit up to two months in advance. They also need a permit from their home country demonstrating that they are allowed to carry a firearm in their country of origin. And they must bring their own firearms, as firearm rental is not allowed in Kazakhstan. Finally, they need to register with the Ministry of Interior Affairs and register their firearm at a local regional state office. Hunting trips canalso be booked through www.argymak-tour.kz, which offers English language staff.
Bird hunting season starts the Saturday of September 1 and lasts until November 15. The spring hunting season for birds starts April 1 and lasts only 12 days. Deer season begins August 1 for males and September 20 for does and lasts till the end of year. And wolf, fox, lynx and rabbit season starts on November 1 and lasts until February 15 and all hunters must be accompanied by a second approved hunter.
To Plan your Kazakh Hunting Trip, contact the Hunters’ and Fishermen’s Union
4 Otyrar Street
Phone: +7 (7172) 21 50 57; +7 (7172) 21 72 20
22B Manas Street
Phone: +7 (727)242-32-83; +7 (727)242-27-85
For help arranging the hunt and completing the required paperwork, contact
The Kazakh legend of the Greedy Hunter
One upon a time, goes the Kazakh hunting legend, there existed a renowned hunter who was able to feed his whole tribe with the meat of wild animals.His people were grateful, and the hunter returned their gratitude by providing more and more prey.
One day, while hunting a herd of wild mountain goats, however, the hunter got caught up in thirst for blood and began shooting arrows at all creaturesindiscriminately. His fellow tribesmen, not being able to stop the hunter, fled in terror as the hunter continued his killing spree. And when the hunter saw a small, white female mountain goat that appeared lame, he immediately went after her. But the goat, like a specter, eluded his arrows, climbing over rocks, higher and higher into the mountains and leading hunter further and further from his village.
Suddenly, the goat disappeared, simply vanished into thin air. And the hunter, according to legend, found himself on the top of tall glacier. The glacier was too tall for him to climb down, and soon he died of hunger and fear.
As a result of his greed and disrespect for the creatures that had helped the tribe survive, the hunter’s fellow tribesmen were scattered around the world and their homeland remains empty – a place even animals fail to roam.